Amid the corona crisis, which causes about 500,000 confirmed cases and 8,000 deaths a day worldwide, a Korean-based religious organization called Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (hereinafter referred to as Shincheonji Church) hosted an online prayer meeting, “3rd Global Prayer Service of Religious People” on November 15th.
Broadcast live on the official YouTube channel of Shincheonji Church, the prayer meeting was organized to pray for not only the patients and their families in sufferings but also the government, medical staff, and volunteers fighting to overcome COVID-19. Along with 200,000 domestic and foreign members of Shincheonji Church, about 56,000 people around the world wishing to defeat this pandemic joined the prayer meeting at the same time.
Religious leaders from all over the world added their aspirations for the end of COVID-19 in the online prayer meeting. Their words carried the weight and sincerity as they have continued to work with Chairman Man Hee Lee, a representative of an international peace NGO called HWPL
Chairman Lee, as a war veteran, has practiced peace activities based on the love for humanity toward many victims of war and the words of Jesus, “glory in heaven and peace on earth,” as a believer. He suggested an online prayer meeting because “as the world is suffering from COVID-19, religious people around the world need to pray together to end this disaster."
“Too many people are suffering from COVID-19. In particular, many were infected within our church last February. Both the church members and citizens suffered a lot. We must actively step forward and pray to God for the extinction of COVID-19 in the globe and for the nation and the people,” he said.
352 religious leaders from Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, and Hinduism, representing 73 countries participated in the prayer meeting with one heart transcending religions and denominations. They shared the need of overcoming the crisis by taking the lead in resolving a disaster as religious leaders.
Dr. Anak Agung Diatmika, Secretary for International Relationship of PHDI Jakarta, said, “Genuinely from the inner of our heart consider as WE ARE ONE. We should continue our prayer till the end of the COVID-19 pandemic from the earth and continue our synergy among world religious leaders to keep the world peace, harmony, justice, and prosperity. I am so happy I can join this that truly brings world peace and harmony.”
Following this prayer meeting, about 4,000 recovered patients from COVID-19 who are also Shincheonji Church members will donate blood plasma to develop convalescent plasma treatments. Shincheonji Church has already conducted two large-scale plasma donation of 1,700 church members last July and September, and among them, 312 recovered patients donated twice.
Regarding the large-scale blood plasma donation, Rt. Hon. Hrant Bagratyan, Former Prime Minister of Armenia, sent his congratulatory message, “the action of those who decided to donate plasma at the request of the government deserves praise. If a vaccine is developed through plasma donation, it would be helpful worldwide."
A Shincheonji Church official said, “We have been conducting online service since February 18th, and praying at each worship service for the end of COVID-19, the safety of the quarantine authorities and medical staff, and the recovery of the patients. We will do everything we can with a responsible attitude until the end of the COVID-19 crisis.”
Press-release of HWPL
Religious Leaders’ Peace Network from 130 Countries Examine the Nature of Religion through Comparative Studies on ScripturesThursday, 02 May 2019 17:53
The Era of Religion Never Fades Away
Scientific innovation and technological progress led many countries to hold unproven prospect that social changes from economic development and industrial advancement will bring out the end of religion.
Far from this “faith”, the issue of religion rises to the surface again, creating new phenomena. While traditional roles of Christianity has diminished in the United States and Europe, the void is filled by increasing presence of new religion through the migration of people with different religious orientations. Also, the governance and social integration have been carried out with the influence of religion in Asian and African countries. Since the 9/11, the rise of extremism and terrorism or such acts of violence in the name of religion persisted. These events have brought the issue of religion to surface both positively and negatively. In order to cope with the latest trend of religion, the international society and religion have created platforms and dialogue in search of new roles religion plays in realization of peace, justice and stability.
Interfaith dialogue begins the restoration of fundamentals of religion
In these contemporary days, religion is considered as a main factor affecting the conflicts in the world. Scholars say that violent acts of extremism have the basis on the misinterpretation of religious scripture as means to mobilize the public and incite angers in the mass number of people.
Imam Anas Hajjar, Head Imam of Finland Islam Community, pays a closer attention to religious scripture and points out that “Because many people interpret the scripture with their own thoughts and ideologies without correctly knowing what is the will of God inside the scripture, and if laymen continue to interpret without true knowledge and study, the problems caused by extremists will continue to occur.”.
There’s a rising voice calling for religious leaders to take a strong stand in restoring the true value of religion to lead humanity into a just and peaceful path, rather than leaning toward any forms of extremisms through misinterpretation.
“Terrorism, sectarian violence and religious conflicts have deprived us of basic human rights, resulting in people under pains that go beyond description. The love and tolerance of love have disappeared in the communities. Selfishness, lack of acceptance of the other and the absence of a culture of tolerance and human values have made the communication even more difficult. However, religion does call for peace among peoples. The seed of peace is possible with this desire and with this longing to change the world,” said Mr. Tharwat Gaid Salama Gaballa, Chairman of Horus foundation for Development and training in Egypt.
The role of leaders in reflecting on religion through scripture to discourage religion as means of violent conflicts
“The common objectives that all religious scriptures pursue are the realization of peace and justice, conflict resolution, human dignity, and valuing diversity. Thus, along with the diverse backgrounds and various factors that cause conflicts, we approach towards the root cause of this hospitality among beliefs, which we define as the misunderstandings that arise from the misinterpretation of these scriptures,” Mr. Gaballa added.
Regarding the role of religious leaders, Imam Anas Hajjar, Head Imam of Finland Islam Community emphasized, “Although political extremism and the hate-speech have been in the rise in Europe, NGOs have a critical role in resisting and opposing this type of breakdown in respect of the laws of religious freedom, peace and harmony in the country. The best way to combat all types of extremism is knowledge and this part of the job is given to scholars and religious leaders.”
“In order to find the truth all the humanity wants religious leaders need to put away the thoughts that only my religion is the best and do the comparative work based on Scriptures without dividing themselves and saying ‘your religion’, ‘my religion’,” said Swami Veetamohananda, Swami (religious leader in Hinduism) of Ramakrishna Veda center.
A Platform for Comparative Studies on Religious Scripture – World Alliance of Religions’ Peace (WARP) Office
From April 1st to 2nd, an international conference named “The Role of Cultural Diplomacy in Approaching the Protracted Conflicts” was held in Romania as the presidency of the European Union by a Romanian think tank Institute of Advanced Studies on Levant Culture and Civilization (ISACCL) in cooperation with Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Romania, Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL), University of Bucharest, and Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Global Ethics.
In the conference the role of NGOs and civil societies in developing peace was included to discuss transforming religion from means of violent conflicts to source of peace.
“The culture of earth cannot disguise the one of heaven with a man’s yardstick of judgment. Religion is to learn the world of spirit and teachings of God. This is the heavenly culture that guides us to the world of peace. Through the WARP offices religious leaders have brought religious scriptures to examine trustworthy, physical evidence of religion. In search of the true teachings written in trustworthy scripture, religions should be one under the true teachings. When we continue to do this comparative studies, there will be no more wars triggered by religion,” said Mr. Man Hee Lee, Chairman of HWPL.
A platform for religious leaders as a new attempt to establish a network of peace to enhance understanding of religions through scriptures has been carried out 220 locations from 130 countries. Named “World Alliance of Religions’ Peace (WARP) Office”, this platform since 2014 is designed by HWPL, an international NGO under the UN ECOSOC, to find the nature of religious values for peace building through scriptures. HWPL has its headquarters in Seoul, South Korea and seeks the role of religion in conflict resolution and prevention through the network of global religious leaders.
Oliver Kang, pastor and international missionary of the Evangelical Worldwide Mission Church, said, “Therefore, if we want peace between religions, if we want no more wars, then religions need to turn away from the path of corruption. That is why we are comparing the religious scriptures through the WARP Office meetings. Discussions based on comparing the scriptures is the optimal solution to resolve the problem of corruption.”
“The WARP office is the significant link and the great network for the worldwide religious institutions. It has come to show the cooperation and solidarity of all religious leaders and send the message of tolerance, peace and unity to all people around the world,” said Mr. Gaballa regarding the function of the WARP office.
According to HWPL, this religious network of peace further is further developed to appeal to young generations to build confidence of religion through communication and understanding. “Various religious teaching program for youth such as religious youth peace camp gives lesson for participants to learn about the general history of world religions, find the root cause of and plausible resolutions to religious conflicts and disputes, examine the religious community’s roles for peace, and experience cultural exchanges,” said Dr. Ahmed Jasem Hmood Al-Maliky, Sheikh of Office of the Religious Reference Sheikh Mohammad Al Yaqoobi in Iraq.
“Starting by taking out the prejudice that I am right and you are wrong, let us communicate and interact with each other with these questions in mind: ‘Is what I know always right? Is the other religion always wrong? Or is there something in that religion that mine doesn't have?’ Let us find the best truth and achieve the ultimate value of peace,” he added.
Pastors incite family breakdown
A New York Times advertisement space on November 28th showed a wolf in sheep’s clothing holding money and chain in his hands while a woman is bound and persecuted. Titled “Ban Coercive Conversion”, the non-profit ad is to try to raise awareness of a South Korean woman kidnapped by her own family and came to die when she was forced to dissuade herself from abandoning her religious faith.
Ms. Gu Ji In, the victim from this conversion program, was taken by their parents twice to two different places – Catholic monastery and resort pension for months. Though the religious background of the family is a Presbyterian church, major denomination in Korean Christianity, the Catholic space with the approval from the Catholic members was used for anti-human rights crime. This type of forceful conversion exceeds 1,000 victims with deaths and war-like mental traumas.
To restore justice, a public rally with 120,000 participants in Seoul back in January requested a legal punishment on this criminal activity by Christian pastors who make the “Coercive Conversion Program” to encourage parents to kidnap their children and forcefully threaten them to convert.
Without being exposed to direct involvement into the physical violence, the pastors avoid the criminal law and financially benefit from the parents. Since today, the Korean government has not released an official statement.
Korea's Mainstream Christianity Becomes hotbed of crime
The social and political influence of Christianity in South Korea has made the civil rights ignored. The Christian Council of Korea (CCK) was established in 1989 as a unified organization of Christian churches with the majority of the Presbyterian denomination. With millions of church members, the CCK exerted its influence in presidential elections and leveling heresy for firm control over social and economic power. For the last 10 years, Korean media frequently have reported the corruption of the CCK.
The CCK’s controversies have raised concerns over not only social division in the country but global conflict. During the Japanese colonial period, the Presbyterian church encouraged Korean youth to participate in the war waged by Japan in Asia and the Pacific. In 1938, the church collected money to purchase weapons and claimed it was “the order of God for Christians in Korea.”
Under the sponsorship from the military dictatorship in the 1970s, this tradition transformed into an anti-peace slogan. Recently, the president of the CCK officially said that the citizens who held candle lights in Seoul Square for the resignation of the former President Park Geun Hye are “flea” (insect) and held prayer service “for the fall of communist (President) Moon Jae In in the name of Jesus.”
Another prayer service by the CCK left remarks against the international norm, which encourages war behavior that threatens global order. A former official from the Park government said, “For the stability of South Korea, we need nuclear armament.”
Responsibility and role of religion questioned
Pastor Noel Malik, Director of Pakistan Minorities Alliance in Italy, emphasized, “Denominations who exercise those actions are not Christian. They are extremist and anti-Christian. I want to ask them. In which chapter and which verse are you following to do such bad action? If the Bible does not say, why are you doing that?"
H.E. Samuel Sam-Sumana, Former Vice President of Government of Sierra Leone, said, “Governments should be encouraged and supported to develop clearly defined policies and laws against forceful conversion and those policies and laws should be fully enforced.”
“Importantly too, there should be collaborative efforts established and undertaken by countries in the same region to track and deal with such violations of rights,” he added.
"There have been 137 cases of coercive conversion after the death of Ms. Gu since January this year. This shows how Christian pastors are cheapening the lives of people," said Ms. Jihye Choi, co-president of Human Rights Association for Victims of Coercive Conversion Programs (HAC) in South Korea.
"In order to root out this kind of anti-human right conversion, international interest is of tremendous importance," she highlighted.
HWPL and civil society groups in 117 cities advocate comprehensive cooperation for peace and denounce anti-peace activities
While the global society has been sending an interest and encouragement to the historic decision of the North Korea-US dialogue following the ‘Peace Olympics’ held in South Korea, a Korea-based international peace NGO held an event commemorating “The 2nd Annual Commemoration of the Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War (DPCW)” on March 14. In Seoul, South Korea, on the theme of "A Call for Building a World of Peace and Realizing Justice" was attended by 1,000 participants including representatives of politics, religion, and civic groups at home and abroad.
The host organization, Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL) affiliated with UN DPI and UN ECOSOC, announced the DPCW on March 14, 2016, to strengthen a solidarity of peace through a comprehensive cooperation of all sectors of society and to establish legally binding international law necessary for peacebuilding. The DPCW with 10 articles and 38 clauses, drafted by international law experts, includes provisions to avoid war-related actions and achieve peace, including respect on international law, ethnic/religious harmony, and a culture of peace.
Mr. Man Hee Lee, Chairman of HWPL, highlighted that every individual in the global society is responsible for constructing global peace. He appealed to the participants by saying, “Rather than waiting to take peace for granted, it is we who should put an end to war to protect humanity and our globe, and leave peace as a legacy for future generations.” “Law of today cannot compensate for the lives sacrificed from war. What we need is an instrument that protects human life, the very law that prevents war,” he added.
“No human being and no animal on planet Earth can survive from weapons (of mass destruction). Even an error or an accident can cause widespread damage to human life and property which cannot be replenished. We all have to work 365 days and 24 hours together for peace as a messenger of peace,” said, Mr. Pravin H. Parekh, President of Confederation of Indian Bar who participated in drafting the DPCW.
“If we want to put an end to war and build peace, let us work together for peace and overcome the boundary of state, ethnicity and religion. We have to think about how to resolve international conflicts through the adoption of the DPCW as a UN resolution. And the international society should provide assistance to facilitate peace education proposed by HWPL,” emphasized Mr. Deok Gyu Lim, former president of the International Law Association Korean Branch.
In the event, HWPL issued the official statement against anti-peace actions that hinder peace and justice with unsubstantiated information and distortion from socio-economic motives and human rights abuses by religious intolerance. In the statement it addressed that HWPL “will no longer tolerate attempts to obstruct the work for peace, putting personal gain over the common good of humanity. We urge all those yearning for peace and justice to take the right path, not the path marked with lies, and join the effort to build peace together.”
The multi-national events for the 2nd Annual Commemoration of the DPCW calling for building a world of peace and realizing justice were organized in 166 cities in 71 countries, including South Korea, the United States, Germany, Ukraine, Britain, and China. 150,000 citizens and leaders of all sectors in the world took part in this global event urging the establishment of international law for the realization of a peaceful, just society and the denunciation of anti-peace activity.